Five years ago today, I stepped on Turkish soil for the first time.
My friend, Courtney, was studying abroad with me at Salzburg College. She asked me if I would join her on a trip to Turkey. I said, “Turkey? Well…That wasn’t on my to-do list, but when do you want to go? I’d consider it.” Our trip to Turkey was the best excursion I took during my year abroad. I’m thankful Courtney invited me, and I’m thankful I accepted the invitation.
We arrived late and took a taxi from the airport to the Orient Hostel in Sultanahmet. We walked in and were greeted with, “Where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you!” I thought, “That’s creepy…Who is this guy?” He was no creep, though. He was just a funny guy that worked at the hostel. Berkay was the first Turk we became friends with… And the first to offer us Apple Tea, which has since become an addiction of mine.
Courtney and I had great adventures. We went to all the sights, experienced a Turkish bath together (complete with a spank on the rump), pet lots of cats, fell for the handsome men, cruised the Bosphorus, went from being terrified of the Call to Prayer (first heard at 4am the morning after we arrived) to LOVING the Call to Prayer, admired the art and textiles, and listened to Stereo Love by Edward Maya on repeat (because that’s when it became a popular song (in Europe much earlier than in the States))… We fell in love with Istanbul and the people.
Some photo memories:
After Turkey, I traveled around Europe for four more weeks. I returned to the States, finished university, and returned to Europe the next day. I had a feeling, almost immediately, that I was not supposed to be in Europe at that time. I ignored it for three months before returning home. When I got home, my dad said, “I’m glad you got that out of your system.” My family felt strongly that I just needed to know that America was where I belonged and that my year abroad was not representative of a real life in Europe. To some extent, they’re correct… But I replied, “I felt I was not supposed to be there right now. I did NOT say that I’m not ever supposed to be there.”
Shortly thereafter, I got my first teaching job in Burlington, Illinois, close to my family. I settled in, bought a house, and started to get comfortable with the idea of staying there forever and dealing with my wanderlust as it came. I started to let go of the idea of living abroad again… Until one day, I came upon a posting for a job teaching music in Istanbul…
And now here I am, five years later, sitting in my classroom teaching music in the same city that I instantly fell in love with. I always thought if I was moving abroad, it would be back to a German speaking country. I loved learning German and I wanted to use the language. As much as I loved Turkey, I never would have guessed I’d be living in that great, Ottoman capital today.
I love all the things about this city that I loved five years ago. And I love even more about this place now.
I grew so much in the five years between 6 May 2010 and today. It just goes to show that you never know where you will be in five years.
So...Where will I be five years from now? On 6 May 2020, I will be reflecting on my first year as an expat…But from where?
Here are the options my friends and I have giggled about:
1. “Stuck in Turkey…Because you married a Turk…Because you love Turks…”
2. Berlin, Germany – A city that would combine my love of Germans AND Turks! (If you speak both languages, watch this for a laugh: Turkish Song As Heard by a German)
3. Hong Kong
4. Manila, Philippines
What’s your guess? Where will I be? Where will YOU be?